Monday, February 1, 2010

Unheard Voices and Prevalent Corruption: An Insight on Urban Poverty in Metro Manila

The same man and architect, Daniel Burnham, designed the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Manila, Philippines, yet the composition of both metropolitan areas share few similarities. Unlike the beautiful aesthetics and scenery of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, garbage and children wearing no clothes made up the panorama on the side of the street next to the water in Manila. One of the first images I saw while in the Philippines will be one etched in my mind forever. I took the picture shown above the morning after I arrived in Manila when my group was on our way to lunch. The photo is of where the Pacific Ocean meets the coast of the city of Manila, Philippines; however, the picture reveals much more than the blue ocean water. Along the coastal wall, mounds of trash and waste sit in the water as a result of people dumping their garbage over the side and lack of government action towards the problem.

Although the people of Manila and the damage from the recent typhoons caused much of the compost to accumulate, this photo also proves the inadequate response by the Philippine government at national and local levels. A key contributing factor to the prevalent urban poverty in Manila is corruption within its government entities. Despite the current efforts of President Macapagal-Arroyo, the concept of good governance is too seldom depicted in the Philippines. Within the past two years, watchdog agencies such as the Asian Development Bank and World Bank published documents regarding the pillar of good governance at and . Both organizations explicitly illustrate their policies, governance indicators, and charts concerning their anti-corruption policies. While the ADB emphasizes their strategies to end corruption, the WB focuses on governance indicators in the Philippines such as: voice and accountability; political stability; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law; and, control of corruption.

One of the main reasons corruption in the Philippine government perpetually continues is due to the people’s lack of involvement with national and local government and the governmental deficiency of engagement with its people. Among the urban poor, voices go too frequently unheard. While in the Southville housing projects of Cabuyao, we had the opportunity to interview some of the female block leaders partaking in the Vincentian Center for Social Responsibility program. When asked if the government became more involved after the implementation of VCSR programs, the women responded no. The block leaders said the garbage and water systems were brought up during the Second Congress, but they took no action. The women stated sometimes it takes up to four months for garbage collection, and there is no place large enough to amass it all.

Based on the government negligence in the remote Southville housing projects, the vast amount of waste remaining in the water in metropolitan Manila is not staggering. What was not shown in the picture were the dozens of naked children swimming in the polluted water, or the urban poor living on the street on the other side. Needless to say, both situations call for immediate government need and intervention, and will only worsen as good governance remains absent and corruption perseveres.

by Meredith A. Koch

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